Imam Bayildi is a Turkish meal prepared with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, onions, and olive oil. It is often served with rice or other side dishes. Those in the West who wish to prepare this meal may call it stuffed eggplant if they are unfamiliar with the local name tradition. However, this takes away some of the meal’s appeal.
Although it is minimal in calories; nevertheless, it is a delicious treat and a popular dish in Turkey. Imam Bayildi, a Turkish eggplant dish that interprets as “the priest fainted,” has several origin tales. According to folklore, a priest swooned after eating this meal. The second theory is that he passed out due to the excessive amount of olive oil used. Imam Bayildi, the famous Turkish eggplant dish, has a variety of variations. Most recipes ask for a lot more olive oil than this one. This one has a lot of ingredients, but it’s a lot lighter than the original.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230 °C). Brush a baking sheet with olive oil after lining it with foil or paper. Make a slit along the center of the eggplants, be careful not to cut through the skin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the outer skin starts to shrivel on the cooking pan. Remove from heat and place in a colander in the sink, cut side down. Allow 30 minutes to drain.
Meanwhile, in a large, covered skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Cook, turning often, for 5 to 8 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Then add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute, stirring constantly, until aromatic. Turn off the heat and place it in a mixing bowl. Toss in the tomatoes, herbs, one teaspoon of sugar, and one tablespoon of the remaining oil.
Turn the eggplants over and put the cut side up in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the container halfway with the onion and tomato mixture. Combine the remaining olive oil, remaining sugar, water, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Drizzle over the eggplants and around them.
Place the pan over low heat, covered. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours on low heat, monitoring for moisture and basting with the liquid in the pan as needed, and adding water to the pan if it gets too dry. The eggplants should be almost flat at the end of cooking, and the liquid in the pan should be slightly caramelized. This sauce should be poured over the eggplant. Allow cooling completely in the pan before serving.
You can prepare the eggplant in Step 1 and prepare the filling in Step 2 several hours before assembly and cooking the Imam Bayildi. The final meal may be left out for many hours after it has been prepared.